By Scott Dudinskie
The Daily Item
— MILTON -- Olivia Bonshock and Kelsey Yacko typically create a lot of havoc on the basketball court.
Monday, the Shamokin duo created a bunch of chaos both on and off the court.
The Indians forwards, whose athleticism and quickness pose matchup nightmares, combined for 23 points, 16 rebounds, 10 steals and seven blocks in a pivotal 32-26 win at Milton.
"That was the game right there," said Milton coach Aaron Slusser, whose team slipped from first place in its division with a third consecutive loss.
The result threw into disarray the Heartland Athletic Conference's plan to stage its first ever tournament featuring the three division winners and the next best team, regardless of division.
Shamokin moved into first place in HAC-I at 10-3 (12-9 overall), a win ahead of Danville (15-4, 9-3). Those teams are slated to play a make-up game Friday, which would determine the division champion if Danville beats Midd-West tonight. However, Heartland officials planned the girls semifinals for Wednesday night at Mifflinburg H.S.
The conference would have been in the clear had Milton won last night. The Black Panthers (12-10, 10-4) would have remained in first place, and they held a tiebreaker for sweeping Danville during the regular season. Milton would have joined Mount Carmel (HAC-II), Benton (HAC-III) and, likely, Muncy in Wednesday's semifinals.
Now, as Shamokin athletic director Rick Kashner said following Monday's game, "everything is on the table" in terms of finding a solution to play the girls tournament. The only option not being considered during today's discussions is cancelling the event.
Again, Bonshock and Yacko are primarily to blame.
"For those two, by far, this was the best game they played all year," said Shamokin coach Bill Callahan. "They did a real nice job."
Milton was on fire to start Monday's game, hitting five of its first eight shots (four of them perimeter jumpers) for an 11-6 lead. Emily Baker, who led the Panthers with 11 points and 11 boards, halted a brief Shamokin run with a pair of free throws to make it 13-9, but Milton then went 5 1/2 minutes without scoring.
"We came out strong, balanced scoring, and kind of gave it away from the first quarter," said Slusser.
Baker made a shot near the foul line to end the drought and erase the Indians' first lead, but by then Shamokin had established a threat in the paint. The Indians kept going back to the well.
Bonshock fed Kelsey Forbes for a bucket underneath early in the second quarter, and Yacko followed with a couple assists to Bonshock in the period. Yacko then scored twice in the half's final minute, on a putback and a drive to the hoop, for a 20-17 Indians' lead.
Yacko, a senior, and Bonshock, a junior, combined for 15 points, four boards, four steals and five blocks in the half. Bonshock had eight of the points, while Yacko had all the blocks.
"We're captains and we had to step it up," said Yacko. "We just needed to focus, take our time and get it done.
Milton was 0 for 8 from the floor to start the third quarter (2 of 23 combined in the middle quarters), but trailed by only five at period's end, 24-19.
The Panthers trailed by as many as seven in the fourth, but pulled within 29-26 on a Katelyn Gensel transition basket with a minute to play. Shamokin missed the front of end of three 1-and-1s in a 35-second span before Catelin Pancher converted one and Bonshock followed a miss on the second.
"Free throw shooting (5 of 17) and missed layups really hurt us and almost came back to haunt us," said Callahan. "Without (injured senior point guard Sami Schiccatano), our leader, that's a great win for us up here. To come here, knowing if they won (we'd have a chance) to be league champs ... I'm proud of them."